Enfin, mes Spec-amis. Ironlord est arrive! After having been Future Shocked way back in June, French software house Ubisoft's newie has finally arrived in Angleterre.
It's set in a medieval world of swords and sorcery. You play Monsieur Ironlord himself, fresh back from the Crusades and looking forward to the huge 'welcome home' street party in his honour. But, wot, no bunting? Nope, looks like your evil uncle has taken advantage of your absence and nicked your bloomin' throne! What a villain, eh?
Your aim then, is to regain it and live happily ever after. Needless to say, this isn't as simple as it sounds. The game has three main parts, the largest being the first, which also features four sub-games! Read about the component parts, then I'll come back to tell you how it plays...
Right how does it play? On the whole I think it works well. The individual sub-games are well executed though some are simplistic. The sword fight is nice, especially with 128K sound. The archery is like a sports sim in itself, and I can see it will take a lot of practice to master. (But you'll have to if you want to get the maximum number of armies!)
The adventure game relies mainly on large, colourful, graphical representations of the towns or scenes therein. Then you get a cursor arrow. Click, say, on an important character and the computer will give you a picture of that character plus a menu from which you can choose to 'talk', 'give', 'buy' or summon a description of him (or the barmaid! ). The game map appears small and there are only about a dozen key characters, but since they interlink and do things like offer you puzzles to solve there are sufficient for playability.
The wargame's a novel part - it contains most of the strategy elements in complete wargames but isn't of the size and complexity that I know put many people off this type of game.
Finally, the labyrinth game has large and colourful graphics, but the actual playing area is small and monochrome. Mind you, at the end of the day, the sprite is no worse than those in Gauntlet, and the size of the playing area means that the extra memory can be devoted to really smooth scrolling. Lastly I found that the fact you cant see around the next corner nicely conjures up the feel of being in a gloomy corridor.
So, a massive, colourful game, with something in it for everyone. Some component parts are small as a result of the overall size but no less playable for that. Although you can enter the wargame section you can't win (and therefore see the third part of the game) without having completed all or most of the adventure components! But the choice is yours! If you can't solve one or two of the ten problems, then you can still go to war with eight armies. A harder task but not impossible! ironford is an innovative treatment of a familiar scenario that manages in incorporate elements of many different games.
THE ADVENTURE GAME
You start in an adventure-type game in which you recruit up to ten armies to do battle with your uncle's forces. You're presented with a main map scene on which you can move a cursor to travel an visit the local towns. You can then move about each scrolling town plan and find the important inhabitants. These people hint at things they would like, and by performing your tasks you can convince them into giving you their armies.
THE ADVENTURE SUB-GAMES
In order to achieve the tasks set by the inhabitants you have to, among other things, enter an archery contest, an arm wrestling match, and defeat several of the knights who attack you at random. These sub-games can be fairly comprehensive in themselves. Arm wrestling is a joystick waggler, whilst archery is a sort of leaderboard-type simulation on its own. Short on cash? Then try your luck at the dice gambling game!
All the action takes place on one screen where your armies are represented by square icons. Passing your cursor over these tells you their size and strength, and also enables you to give them movement orders. Clicking on the 'next turn' icon initiates the first movement section. When armies overlap a combat sequence is initiated. The info on the units involved appears in the top left of the screen, whilst in the top right there's a little battle sequence. Resting units increases their strength, and supply icons often appear on to which you can move fatigued units. After you've defeated his armies, however, you still have to find your uncle. Can you guess where he's hiding?
The final section, the labyrinth. See it? it's that small bit in the mouth of the skull! It's a sort of Gauntlet-type, dungeon exploring game. Collect keys to open locked doors and find an arrow indicating the way to the next level. Oh, and you also need to pick up a sword on each level too. Did I say this game was massive or what? Yep, that's right... but there's more! At the end of each floor of the labyrinth you go into a simple arcade Shoot about a dozen or so bats and you then get on to the next level of the maze! Six levels and arcade sequences in all - beat the lot and you've got your throne back.
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